Cotton harvest slim

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Bernadino Quisadas of Farwell inspects the gin stamp Wednesday at Farwell Gin Co. Quisadas is removing any debris from the stamp, which can be a fire hazard.

By Kevin Wilson

Christmastime isn’t quite as white this year as it usually is for West Texas cotton ginners.
The holiday season coincides with the cotton harvest, and cotton gins in Farwell and Muleshoe have seen high quality but low quantity.

Craig Rohrbach, the general manager of Parmer County Cotton Growers Co-op in Farwell, said the cooperative has received about 15,000 bales of cotton from its growers. That’s about 23 percent of last year’s heavy output of 63,000 bales, and is also much less than an average year of 43,000 bales.

The harvest is nearly completed, he said.

With a combination of moisture in the spring and a long, hot period in the fall, Rohrbach and others said the conditions were great for anybody who did harvest.

“As far as what cotton that has been harvested, it’s been really good,” said Darwin Robertson, manager of the Muleshoe Co-op Gin. Robertson said the cotton his gin received was high quality, but it only received 8,000 bales as opposed to a normal year’s haul of 35,000-40,000 bales.

With great conditions for growers, why the low numbers for West Texas? The reason is twofold.

First, early hail knocked out cotton crops. The second, and larger, reason is many farmers abandoned cotton as a crop in favor of corn, which spiked to nearly $4 a bushel this year from a previous price of around $2.50.

South of Lubbock, farmers are reporting high yields.

“You go to Lubbock and further south,” Rohrbach said, “they’re probably setting records on volume.”

John Johnson agreed. Johnson is the communications director for Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, which represents Lubbock-area cotton growers.

“Throughout the season, the weather patterns were just perfect,” Johnson said. “Everything fell into place.”

Plains Cotton Growers in Lubbock, which covers 41 Texas counties and 3.5 million planted acres, reports the total haul from its coverage area is about 5.3 million bales. That’s the second-largest recorded harvest for the area, but Vice President of Operations Roger Haldenby said the last four years have been PCG’s four best years.

The only drawback is too much work for local gins.

“From our standpoint, it’s going to be a challenge for us to find a home for all of this cotton, but we’re confident we will,” Johnson said.

That’s good news for West Texas ginners such as Robertson, who said his gin is already handling cotton from other areas because they’re done with theirs.

“It’s helping us,” Robertson said. “We’re more than happy to gin it.”